Murray Bernthal

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Murray Bernthal
Born(1911-04-15)April 15, 1911
Brooklyn, New York City, U.S.
DiedDecember 9, 2010(2010-12-09) (aged 99)
Syracuse, New York, U.S.
Occupation(s)Professor, conductor, music director, violinist
Associated acts

Murray Bernthal (April 15, 1911 – December 9, 2010) was an American musician and producer long active in Syracuse, New York. He was a violin prodigy and a Syracuse University basketball player.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Bernthal was born in Brooklyn, New York on April 15, 1911. From a young age, he was a classically trained violinist. He attended Syracuse University in 1928 on a partial basketball scholarship,[2] however, he soon abandoned basketball when he was awarded a four-year music scholarship by Mrs. H. Winfield Chapin, wife of a Syracuse entrepreneur, H. Winfield Chapin who was treasurer and general manager of Brown-Lipe-Chapin Company.[3]

During his time at Syracuse University, Bernthal earned both undergraduate and graduate music degrees.[2]

In 1932, after finishing college, Bernthal was hired by Syracuse University as a member of the Music department faculty.[4] He stayed until 1977 when he retired as head of the string department.[2]

In addition to his brief stint in college as a basketball player, Bernthal also had a short career as a sports promoter, semi-professional baseball player and a professional tennis player.[1]

For eight years in the 1940s, Bernthal was music director for local Syracuse radio station, WSYR where he hosted a nightly classical music program. During that period, he worked for general manager, E. R. "Curly" Vadeboncoeur and the two discussed plans for a joint venture.[1]

Broadway theater series[edit]

In 1946, he co-founded the Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series with his employer and business partner, E. R. Vadeboncoeur. Both contributed $200 for the start up. The first presentation was a concert by the Boston Symphony Orchestra at the New York State Fairgrounds. Bernthal also directed the series, which brought touring Broadway musicals to Syracuse. As a concert and theater impresario, he was credited with bringing many major artists and performers to the area who usually played only in larger cities. For many years, he welcomed a variety of stars to Central New York such as: Gloria Swanson, Charlton Heston, Tom Jones, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Bela Lugosi, Beverly Sills, Luciano Pavarotti and Arthur Rubinstein.[2]

The partners next founded the Fayetteville Country Playhouse, a summer stock theater in the old Fayetteville High School. Actors, Joan Fontaine, Melvyn Douglas and Olivia de Havilland appeared in many productions. Vadeboncoeur and Bernthal abandoned their partnership in the 1950s and Bernthal renamed the organization to Famous Artists Playhouse.[5] The summer stock theatre moved from Fayetteville to Henninger High School in Syracuse in 1965.

Throughout his long career, he brought many musicals and events to Syracuse's Crouse Hinds Theater at the John H. Mulroy Civic Center. He also steered many shows to Landmark Theatre as well as other venues. In the beginning, Bernthal chose classical musicians such as Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, however, he adapted to the changing music and theater scene as the public's taste changed. Over a period of 64 years, he presented hundreds of Broadway plays and musicals in Syracuse.[5]

In October 2010, Bernthal sold his share in the business to his longtime partner, Albert Nocciolini. The two met in 1974 when Bernthal was booking a tennis exhibition match between Jimmy Connors and Ilie Năstase.[5]

Famous Artists Broadway Theater Series continues to this day.[5]

Orchestra violinist and conductor[edit]

In the 1940s, Bernthal founded and conducted several orchestras and classical music ensembles including the Syracuse Sinfonietta which he conducted for seven years. He was also associate conductor of the Utica Symphony for three seasons and organized Triple Cities Youth Orchestra in 1948.[1]

By 1961, he was performing with the predecessors of today's Syracuse Symphony Orchestra where he was concert violinist from 1961 to 1966. Soon after, he directed the Syracuse Pops for four years.[1]

Civic contributions[edit]

Bernthal and his first wife, Rose, were instrumental in saving the Landmark Theatre during the 1970s when local developers threatened to tear it down.[1]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Bernthal received the Post-Standard Achievement Award from The Post-Standard, a Syracuse news publisher in February 1995.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Bernthal died on December 9, 2010 at his home in Syracuse, at age 99, from natural causes. He was predeceased by his first wife, Rose (Wartsky) Bernthal, in 2002. During their years together, the couple was involved in music and theatrical productions as well as many civic activities in Syracuse.[1] Murray and Rose had two children together, Eric "Ricky"/"Rick" L. Bernthal, a successful lawyer at Latham & Watkins LLP and chair of the Humane Society of the United States[6], and Barbara "Bobbi" Bernthal Schlesinger, publicist.[7]

He was survived by his wife, Sherly Day Bernthal, daughter, Barbara Bernthal Schlesinger and son, Eric Bernthal. His grandson, Adam Schlesinger, performs with the band Fountains of Wayne. Another one of his grandsons, Jon Bernthal, is a television and film actor who currently stars as Frank Castle in The Punisher.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Melinda Johnson (December 11, 2010). "Murray Bernthal dies at 99; colorful life worthy of theatrical production". Syracuse Post Standard.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Murray Bernthal dies at 99". BWW News Desk. December 11, 2010.
  3. ^ W. T. Schwarz (1915). "Club men in caricature". Cornell University Library.
  4. ^ JTA (September 25, 1932). "Two Jews Named to Staff of Syracuse University". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  5. ^ a b c d Melinda Johnson (December 9, 2010). "Murray Bernthal, who brought stars from Gloria Swanson to Luciano Pavarotti to Central New York, dies at 99". Syracuse Post Standard.
  6. ^ Danielle Paquette (February 2, 2017). "Humane Society CEO resigns after sexual harassment allegations". The Washington Post.
  7. ^ Gerald A. "Gerry" Fernandez (December 13, 2010). "Murray Bernthal. Is Ketchup The Key To Longevity?". Hungry Gerald.

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